PASADENA (CNS) - Amid heightened security and postcard-like Southern California sunshine, the 129th Rose Parade will make its way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena today, with the theme ``Making a Difference.''
Actor Gary Sinise, best known for his role as Lt. Dan Taylor in ``Forrest Gump,'' will serve as grand marshal of the 5 1/2-mile procession, which will begin at 8 a.m.
``The 2018 theme `Making a Difference' is a way to honor and celebrate all of the people in our communities, who quietly and without desire for reward or recognition, act in selfless, generous and kind ways to aid or benefit others,'' Tournament of Roses President Lance Tibbet said. ``Gary Sinise is absolutely one of those people. Gary's humanitarian work with our defenders, veterans, first responders and their families over the years embodies our theme to the fullest.''
The parade will feature 39 floral-covered floats, 20 equestrian groups and 20 marching bands -- along with the marching bands from Oklahoma University and the University of Georgia, the teams competing in the Rose Bowl Monday afternoon.
Among the marching bands taking part will be Australia's Marching Koalas; Kyoto Tachibana High School from Kyoto, Japan; Banda De Musica Herberto Lopez of Panama; the Los Angeles Unified School District All District High School Honor Band; the U.S. Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band; and the Burlington Teen Tour Band from Burlington, Canada.
La Salle High School senior Isabella Marie Marez, 18, will preside over the festivities as this year's Rose Queen. She'll be accompanied by the six members of her Royal Court:
-- Alexandra Marie Artura, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy;
-- Savannah Rose Bradley, Pasadena High School;
-- Lauren Elizabeth Buehner, Arcadia High School;
-- Georgia Jane Cervenka, La Canada High School;
-- Julianne Elise Lauenstein, La Canada High School;
-- Sydney Grace Pickering, Arcadia High School.
The highlight of the parade, however, is always the array of intricately designed and decorated floats. This year's lineup includes floats sponsored by a variety of Southland cities, along with groups and companies including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Honda, Dole Packaged Foods, Kaiser Permanente, Lucy Pet, Trader Joe's and Shriner's Hospital for Children.
The Donate Life float, an annual fixture in the parade, will again pay tribute to organ donors. Among those riding on the float will be baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who received a heart and kidney from the late NFL tight end Konrad Reuland, and former NFL quarterback and coach Sam Wyche, who received a heart just hours before being placed on hospice care.
A float by the United Sikh Mission will feature a replica of the world's largest free kitchen, which is located at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
Once the parade concludes, the floats will be on display until Tuesday during the Showcase of Floats at Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards.
Parade-goers will notice a stepped-up presence of law enforcement officials. Police took the added step this year of closing off the parade route earlier than usual, with barricades going up at 10 p.m. New Year's Eve in an effort to better control traffic through the area. Bomb-sniffing dogs, a ``no drone zone'' and barricades blocking vehicle traffic from entering the parade route at its 56 intersections are all part of the security plan.
Photo: Getty Images